Input needed on proposed Albany Riverfront District -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Input needed on proposed Albany Riverfront District

August 6, 2007

Albany--Albany city commissioners want to know what you think about a new proposed Riverfront District downtown.

The goal of the special district will be to encourage nightlife and family friendly activities.

For years now downtown Albany has struggled to attract businesses and people to the area.

Some blame downtown's demise with the arrival of the mall in the seventies. However, City leaders hope this proposed district will be the solution to change all that.

If you travel to downtown Albany, you'll find more empty buildings than actual businesses.

"Right now, we're in a Catch 22. You talk to a business owner, and they'll tell you 'I'm not coming down there because there's no people.'  You talk to people and they say, 'why go down there? There's no business,'" says Phil Cannon with the Albany Dougherty Inner City Authority.

Cannon says that will soon change.

"We just did five interviews for the downtown manager for the new director for ADICA, and everyone of those guys said you had to put rooftops before retail," says Cannon.

But a proposed Riverfront District will also certainly help. The district will encorporate both sides of the Flint River and about thirty square blocks downtown.

"The entertainment district will give nightlife and weekend life. The purpose of the Riverfront District is to try to get people, to encourage people to come to downtown Albany," says Cannon.

The special district would also exempt bars and restaurants from the 1,000 foot rule. Under the proposed district, city leaders also want to make downtown more pedestrian and family friendly by widening sidewalks and narrowing streets.

"I'm very much in favor of the concept of the Riverfront District. I do think there needs to be a zoning area designated for the downtown district that's little more lenient and a little more in tune with some of the needs of the businesses," says Albany Tomorrow's Greg McCormack who says the special zoning will allow more businesses to open up shop.

"I don't think Albany is going to turn into a Las Vegas by any stretch of the imagination, if you can allow one or two businesses to come down here because of the change in that zoning, I think that's a positive step," says McCormack.

But like Cannon, McCormack believes the surivival of downtown ultimately relies on residential growth to that area.

"I think we need to get folks living in downtown Albany. We're working with a couple of people to convert some of the old buildings in town, and we're still working with this East bank development to try and put in some condominiums. Ten years from now, I expect we'll have at least 250 units downtown, by units, both mixed apartments and condominiums," says McCormack.

And while both men believe encouraging people to move downtown people is key to making downtown Albany thrive, they agree the proposed Riverfront District will also help.

"It's a course of action that can be taken to encourage people to come downtown," says Cannon.

Now city leaders want to here from the community.

Tomorrow, Albany commissioners will hold a public hearing at the Government Center from 6 to 7:30 PM.

Everyone is encouraged to attend.



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